Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Owning Our Own Home: A New Model for Independent Living

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Owning Our Own Home: A New Model for Independent Living

Article excerpt

Adapted from the original article,, which appeared in Exceptional Parent, December 1985.

Over the course of more than 20 years of working with people with developmental disabilities, it became clear to us that most were living lonely, isolated lives. Those living independently or even in an agency or state-supervised setting were often subject to the whims of a landlord or agency or public policy, creating great insecurity for them and for their families. They are never fully integrated into the social life of the community, nor are they considered fully-participating citizens. We wondered whether property ownership in a community of their peers would improve any of these conditions.

In the last three years, we have facilitated the development of 22 units of condominium housing for adults with developmental disabilities in Brookline, Massachusetts. This was a joint venture of parents and residents with considerable help from an architec/developer and an attorney. The units are located in two large Victorian-style houses, each within walking distance of more than a dozen stores, as well as public transportation.

These "chaperoned" condominium boarding houses combine the opportunity for residents (and parents) to own their own homes while enjoying the friendship and support of other unit owners and around-the-clock trained staff.

Community structure

Each resident owns a unit which includes a private bedroom and a share of the common space. Residents share dining, living, recreation and guest rooms, as well as a large kitchen.

All residents are over 18, capable of self-care, free of serious emotional disorders and able to negotiate the community on their own. They are occupied during the day at school, in sheltered workshops, or working in the competitive job market.

When residents are home, an experienced house manager is available for assistance or encouragement. The house manager and other house staff provide supervision in the areas of planning, scheduling, shopping, meal preparation, budgeting, leisure time, personal grooming and care of the house. A staff person who lives in an apartment on the first floor is on call at night and oversees the early morning routine. Staff is there to facilitate independent living, not to provide service to dependent adults.

Residents enjoy the freedom of going out on their own or in small groups with friends from within the house or from the community. Activities are of their own choosing. Though they share a house, each resident has a private room and is expected to respect the privacy and individual differences of housemates.

Almost all residents describe themselves as mentally retarded. Each requires some assistance from time to time, but they are not ready or able to live completely on their own. Most were living at home where they yearned for opportunities for peer socialization and increased independence. At the same time, their parents were looking into the future, recognizing the need to insure ongoing, reliable support for their sons and daughters.

For some residents, their condominiums will be a stepping stone to more independent living situations. For others, it is a permanent home.

Private Resources

The development of these condominiums has been done solely with private funds. Residents and/or their parents purchase the units, making their own financial arrangements. …

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